First, I have to apologize for last week’s Blog. The link to the full Blog was corrupted in the e-mail blast and therefore you had to look at the actual website to read it. A thousand lashes to our coder should do the trick this week. And this week you can now read the entire Blog right here. Now…
I may have spoken about this before, but if the date December 7, 1941 will live in infamy based on the beginning of World War II for the United States, then so are the dates September 11, 2001 and March 11, 2020.
We’re coming up on the one-year anniversary of the latter which has done so much to change the world we live in. Singer Sheryl Crow sang “A change will do you good” in a 1997 song, but to that I’d like to add “Only if you learn from the change.”
I believe it was sometime in the late-’80 when we were at the NHRA Springnationals then held in Columbus, Ohio. Heavy rains caused either a nearby lake or a dam to break completely flooding the National Trail Raceway pits with water literally over some trailer fenders; mine included. Sometime during the night, racer Steve Cohen had “borrowed” a tractor and was busy pulling trailers to safety during the night. By the time I had gotten there from the hotel in my pre-motorhome days, neighboring farmers had showed up with the huge tractors and helped in the mass confusion.
The race itself was obviously cancelled/postponed with the pro classes brought back I believe the following week while sportsman were brought back months later. It was at that time when I thought, “Hey, they could be on to something here.” Pro-only and separate sportsman-only events. But alas, that really never came to pass. Sort of. In the ensuing years, we’ve had NHRA national events which have separated the pros and sportsman, most notably recently the 2019 Norwalk national event with pros run on the typical date in June but sportsman months later. And then last year we had three “pseudo” national events held in Indianapolis, some with only limited sportsman presence. So, what was learned?
The way I see it, a lot should have been learned but maybe wasn’t. Then again, maybe it was and we just don’t know.
For decades, the NHRA national event scene has pretty much looked the same. Oh, there have been rule changes and some small attempts to change what it looks like, but it’s still pretty much a three- or four-day race, sportsman run on Thursday-Friday-Saturday, pros get two qualifying shots on Friday, two more on Saturday and final eliminations Sunday. It’s the same old, same old… until last year.
Following the hiatus after March 11, motorsports was one of the first sports to come back into the public eye. NASCAR had its Esports league running virtual events and high-dollar bracket racing began to open up in early May to packed fields of racers probably wanting to forget about the problems of the day and just race. I had this discussion last week with Wade Brown of Brown & Miller Racing Solutions where he felt the changes to both NASCAR and the NHRA schedules may be long overdue and to a point I agree.
This year, the NASCAR schedule has changed from what was the typical Daytona start followed by Atlanta and a move to the west coast before coming back east. NHRA always opened up in Pomona, then Phoenix, Gainesville, etc. It’s a bit obvious that last year’s “pseudo” national events did teach NHRA officials something. This year, almost all national events will be contested for the pros with only two qualifying shots on Saturday followed by eliminations on Sunday, with the exception being the U.S. Nationals. Sportsman will run on Friday and Saturday with only the last couple of rounds completed Sunday. NASCAR has also moved to little or no qualifying or practice before completing their races on Sundays. In addition, they’ve added several road course races which will surely shake up schedule.
Did we need last year’s pandemic to force a change? Maybe. We surely didn’t need the pandemic itself, but sometimes we have to be forced into a change. We’re all creatures of habit and I know in my case, I don’t like change, but like death and taxes as the only sure thing in life, we have to add the third, change. We somehow have no control over those three.